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An American Crime (2007)

R  |   |  Biography, Crime, Drama  |  7 December 2007 (Sweden)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 24,165 users  
Reviews: 111 user | 54 critic

The true story of suburban housewife Gertrude Baniszewski, who kept a teenage girl locked in the basement of her Indiana home during the 1960s.


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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Paula Baniszewski
Shirley Baniszewski (as Hannah Leigh Dworkin)
Reverend Bill Collier
Marie Baniszewski
Hope Orbach
Patricia Place ...
Mrs. Doyle
Calvin Keet ...
Mr. Doyle


Based on a true story that shocked the nation in 1965, the film recounts one of the most shocking crimes ever committed against a single victim. Sylvia and Jennie Fae Likens, the two daughters of traveling carnival workers are left for an extended stay at the Indianapolis home of single mother Gertrude Baniszewski and her six children. Times are tough, and Gertrude's financial needs cause her to make this arrangement before realizing how the burden will push her unstable nature to a breaking point. What transpires in the next three months is both riveting and horrific. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The true story of a child's punishment that became a woman's crime. See more »


Biography | Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong and disturbing depiction of child abuse and torture | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

7 December 2007 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

The Basement  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film is based largely on actual court transcripts from the case. See more »


At one point during a punishment scene, the shot changes to the neighbors outside, and a fan is visible in an open window. The shot returns to the same view a moment later, but the window is closed, the curtains are drawn, and no fan is visible. See more »


Gertrude Baniszewski: [preparing to write the tattoo onto Sylvia's belly] Ricky... she came back from juvenile! Started stirring up trouble again... Johnny hold her!
Sylvia Likens: No, please, please!
Gertrude Baniszewski: Keep her still!
Marie Baniszewski: If you move, it'll only be messy.
Gertrude Baniszewski: [gives Marie a lighter and a safety pin] Light that.
Sylvia Likens: No! No! No! Please! No! No! Please! Please!
Gertrude Baniszewski: Stop it!
Shirley Baniszewski: You got it right, mama?
Gertrude Baniszewski: Make sure it's hot!
Sylvia Likens: I'm sorry! I'm sorry!
See more »

Crazy Credits

The final credit states "Sylvia Likens, 1949-1965". See more »


Referenced in The 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards (2009) See more »


Hi Henry's Triumphal March
Written by Orion R. Farrar
Performed by Tangley Calliope
Courtesy of Marion Roehl Recordings
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

My opinion - Does not portray how horrible this crime really was.
30 June 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I rate the movie a 7, as it does introduce individuals to this most horrible series of events. However, in my opinion the movie does not portray the abuse of Sylvia Likens to the extent to fully represent the horror and suffering of her torture. In researching this case, I find the movie "light" on the true depth of this crime. Sylvia Likens had at least 100 burns, contusions, and cuts on her body when she was found. She was starved, placed in scalding baths, and suffered extreme and prolonged abuse. I'm not voyeuristic, but I think that the film really lacks the details of the sequence and scope of events to provide the emotional and intellectual impact that the Likens case calls for. In contrast, "The Girl Next Door" appears to go a little too far in portraying a couple of events that may not have happened (I hope!) - but I believe that "The Girl Next Door" will leave you with a better sense of the true nature of the tragic murder of this young girl.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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The film's major flaw kincaid-5
The most evil of them all Fleurus
Compared to The Girl Nextdoor chelsi-boswell
Deletions ManofArete
I'm no expert on the case but I know this isn't how it went down iseemoviepeople
curious panthersrulenfl69
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